With accountability for bad behaviour even more of an issue in the Internet age, the time is right for a revisit of 'Flatliners', the hit 1990 thriller about med schoolers whose induced brief-death experiences lead them to be haunted by past misdeeds. But the only real update in this new version is the diversity of its cast: Ray (Diego Luna), Jamie (James Norton), Marlo (Nina Dobrev), and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) join their fellow resident, Courtney (Ellen Page), in her quest to plumb the mysteries of the afterlife via illicit experiments in a basement lab. After four of them (the skeptical Ray opts out) have 'flatlined' and been revived, they find themselves possessed of a new zest for life, but also experience frightening visions of people they’ve wronged.
There’s little mystery to these troublesome backstories (other than how a jellyfish-stung patient winds up in a big-city hospital), and just as little depth to the characters. The performances are just fine in roles that too often require them to explain themselves to each other, and a white-haired Kiefer Sutherland returns from the original; the movie refuses to have fun with his cameo. Like its predecessor, the new 'Flatliners' subjugates ethical and moral questions about playing God to the pedantic problems of its protagonists. Original director Joel Schumacher at least gave the material a pulpy kick; his successor is Niels Arden Oplev (the Swedish-language 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'), whose work, occasional CGI flourishes notwithstanding, can best be described as dutiful. Mostly, it's hackneyed horror devices uneasily mixed with softball dramatics of atonement, to increasingly plodding effect. Somebody get a defibrillator in here.